Tag Archives: david carlton


This is the thousandth post.

I was going to use this space to give you some statistics, maybe make a Wordle, etc., but I couldn’t figure out how to get WordPress to give me the relevant statistics.

So let’s just say I’ve written a lot of stuff on this blog.  No way is the mean post less than 200 words long, so let’s say close to a thousand print pages.  And I’m really, really glad.  I know lots of people think the blog is dead and we’re all to fling aphorisms at each other on Twitter and Facebook instead.  I love aphorism-flinging, but, for me, blogging sits in a kind of perfect sweet spot; “published” enough that I feel someone’s out there reading, informal enough that I don’t mind making mistakes, short enough that I can bang out a post without compromising a workday, long enough that I can shape an argument that’s not just an aphorism.  Writing this blog, and reading other people’s blogs, has enriched my published writing and my mathematics too.  And I think in some small way it’s been useful to others — the blog has been cited at least 4 times on the arXiv!  That’s more than plenty of my papers.

I don’t care if the blog is dead — if you’re on the fence about starting one, I say you should do it.

A few notes:

  • My most popular post, by a mile, was my post alerting the community to Mochizuki’s claimed proof of ABC, which was linked to by several big sites like Hacker News.  It’s been viewed over 50,000 times.  The next most popular was a post about a hiring controversy in math that I won’t link to because the matter is long settled to everyone’s satisfaction.   Next was a post sharing an anonymous account of treatment at a halfway house which is believed to be by David Foster Wallace.  In fact, of the 10 most popular posts, 7 are about math, 2 are about David Foster Wallace, and the remaining one is Is There Life After Potty Power? which, based on my search logs and the comments, gets a lot of views from people who, after hundreds of viewings, have developed a romantic attachment to the star of a toilet-training video.  
  • From this you should get the basic idea — people like the math posts a lot and the literature posts a fair amount.  And nobody cares about the Orioles at all.
  • When I was considering starting this blog, I asked David Carlton, who’s been doing it much longer, what the secret was to keeping up a blog and not letting it die out.  “Low standards,” he told me.  What he meant:  to blog you have to be willing to to write things that are inarticulate, or not fully-thought-through, or which still have pieces missing; otherwise blog entries (like some math papers!) end up languishing, invisible and unfinished, forever.  I think it would be better for math if those messy and partial ideas were more public than they are, and I think one way for this to happen is for more mathematicians to blog.  And to have low standards.
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Startup culture, VC culture, and Mazurblogging

Those of us outside Silicon Valley tend to think of it as a single entity — but venture capitalists and developers are not the same people and don’t have the same goals.  I learned about this from David Carlton’s blog post.  Cathy O’Neil reposted it this morning.  It’s kind of cool that the three of us, who started grad school together and worked with Barry Mazur, are all actively blogging!  We just need to get Matt Emerton in on it and then we’ll have the complete set.  Maybe we could even launch a new blogging platform and call it mazr.  You want startup culture, I’ll give you startup culture!


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Back to school linkdump

  • Fellow O’s fan Tom Scocca explains why the Red Sox are the new Grateful Dead in the Boston Globe. (Previously on Quomodocumque:  why the Red Sox are John McCain.)
  • David Carlton is moving to Playdom to work for Steve Meretsky.  Steve Meretsky!  The guy who wrote Planetfall!
  • From Baseball Reference:  on August 18. 1998, the Braves got nine hits against the Giants, all doubles.  Will this feat ever be repeated?  About 20% of hits are doubles.  let’s say that for some ballparks, or some batting lineups, the chance a hit will be a double goes up to 1/4.  Then you might figure the chance of nine hits all being doubles would be (1/4)^9, about one in a quarter-million.  (If the chance of a double is 1 in 5, this goes down to one in two million.)  From that point of view, it’s not so shocking; there have been about three hundred thousand MLB games played this century, so why not?  Two problems.  1.  Doubles used to be a lot less common then they are now.  2.  If you hit nine doubles off a team’s pitching staff, it probably means they’re having a terrible day, and it probably means at some point you’re going to hit a home run.  I think a much better way to assess whether another team’s likely to match the Braves is to check how many times a team has managed eight doubles without a hit.  And nobody has.  Not seven, either, or six. And just five teams have had 5 doubles in a game with no other hits.  I think the Braves are safe here.   And I think this is a good example of a question where just looking at the data gives you a much more robust answer than a half-assed probability calculation.
  • Not a link:  based on the response to my question, tons of people follow the new postings on the arXiv. But hardly anyone follows it, as I do, in Google Reader — according to their stats, the RSS feed for math.AG has only 98 subscribers and math.NT just 83.
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